NBA Rookies Who Left School Way Too Early

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2013

NBA Rookies Who Left School Way Too Early

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    Today's trend of early departures from college basketball to the NBA results in many ill-advised exits. The 2012-13 rookie class features several players who left school way too early.

    For some, there was no stopping the jump to the NBA ranks, regardless of how unprepared they were.

    A pair of NCAA champions could have used more college competition. The best passer in the country needed more polishing. Other standouts from the Big East, ACC and Pac-12 were unwise to enter their names in the draft.

    But they did anyway.

    Whether related to skill, leadership or maturity, these rookies ditched college far too soon.

    *Statistics accurate as of Feb. 2, 2013.

Kendall Marshall, Phoenix Suns, G

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    Age: 21

    College Experience: Two years (North Carolina)

    No one in college basketball could distribute better than Kendall Marshall in 2011-12, as he orchestrated a lethal Tar Heels attack.

    However, plenty of guards could shoot better, and in the NBA, he's even more overshadowed.

    The Phoenix Suns' reserve point guard is a mediocre athlete, so he needs to convert when he gets free for open jumpers.

    Marshall's mid-range and long-range shooting weren't ready for the intensity of the NBA, nor were his drives into traffic. Attacking the basket is the area that would have benefited most from a junior year in Chapel Hill.

Will Barton, Portland Trail Blazers, G

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    Age: 22

    College Experience Two years (Memphis)

    The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the weakest benches in the NBA, but Will Barton still can't seem to earn substantial playing time. He is shooting just 37 percent from the field and an embarrassing 18 percent from distance.

    Why? Because he can't execute as a spot-up shooter. According to Synergy Sports, he's 8-of-33 in spot-up scenarios as a rookie, including 4-of-22 from beyond the arc.

    Another year of 35-plus minutes per night with the Memphis Tigers would have given him more confidence as a shooter. 

    Not to mention it would have given him more time to improve his strength, if not his bulk.

Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets, G

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    Age: 20

    College Experience: One year (Duke)

    Regardless of his skill set, New Orleans Hornets guard Austin Rivers wasn't ready to produce at a high level in the NBA after one year of college. He was a dangerous scorer in the NCAA, but as a 20-year-old professional, he's not helping his franchise at all.

    Another year of heavy playing time in the ACC would have improved his decision-making, shot-making and overall approach to the game.

    He doesn't lack for confidence, but it seems he has yet to find that mental edge needed to excel in the NBA. Not only is his field-goal efficiency dreadful, his 55 percent free-throw shooting is unacceptable.

    Rivers would have benefited from spending another year at the Mike Krzyzewski school of hoops.

Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets, F

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    Age: 21

    College Experience: Two years (Kentucky)

    All Terrence Jones needs to do is look at fellow Kentucky product and Houston Rockets teammate Patrick Patterson to see the difference a year makes.

    Unlike Jones, Patterson played three years of college ball. In his third year in Lexington, he improved his outside shot dramatically, sharpened his ball skills and nearly cut his turnovers in half.

    John Calipari would have challenged and molded Jones even more as a junior, helping him develop his ball-handling and shooting. Also, his poise, focus and maturity would have improved.

    Jones went from being a stud prospect in 2011 to falling out of the lottery in 2012 and playing in the D-League in February of 2013. It was likely that he would turn pro in 2012, and Kentucky's NCAA championship sealed the deal.

    That doesn't mean it was the best choice.

Tony Wroten, Memphis Grizzlies, G

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    Age: 19

    College Experience: One year (Washington)

    Being one of the most exciting and talented players in your conference doesn't always mean it's time to go pro.

    But Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Wroten made the leap.

    He wowed Washington Huskies fans with some spectacular dishes and scores in 2011-12, but he also frequently made head-scratching freshman mistakes.

    On top of that, his outside jumper was a major liability, and it hasn't improved enough for him to connect from NBA three-point range.

    Consequently, he's had multiple trips to the D-League and probably wishes he was still carving up the Pac-12.

Royce White, Houston Rockets, F

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    Age: 21

    College Experience: Two years (one full season with Iowa State)

    Houston Rockets forward Royce White's situation is a complex one.

    He had already spent three years in college, but a suspension at Minnesota and subsequent transfer resulted in just one year at Iowa State. He also has a young son, which undoubtedly was a major factor in his decision to turn pro.

    However, another year of college would have given him more time to mature and learn how to manage his anxiety disorder.

    In addition to the off-court issues, White would have improved exponentially as a player, as the Iowa State Daily editorial board noted prior to the 2012 draft:

    Another year at Iowa State would give White the chance to work with ISU coach Fred Hoiberg—one of the best shooters in ISU basketball history—on his jump shot, something he needs to improve on before moving to the next level.

    White could hone specific skills in college that he needs to master before being game-ready in the NBA. While he did lead the team in five (positive) statistical categories, he also led the team in turnovers. Turning the ball over in the NBA lands you either on the bench or in the D-League.

    A second season at Iowa State would have made him a phenomenal rookie in 2013-14.

Doron Lamb, Milwaukee Bucks, G

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    Age: 21

    College Experience: Two years (Kentucky)

    If Big Blue Nation's early exit tendencies weren't enough, the 2012 NCAA title was the final push out the door for most of the Kentucky Wildcats roster last spring.

    Just because Doron Lamb is a national champion doesn't mean he's suited for the rigors of the NBA, though.

    The Milwaukee Bucks draftee fell to the middle of the second round. That in itself should have been an indicator that scouts and insiders perceived Lamb to be unprepared for the NBA.

    He's not ready to be an effective scorer in the NBA. Off the dribble, he's struggling to create in the pick-and roll game, and he's also inconsistent with his outside shooting from the wing.

    Another year at Kentucky would have built his physical and mental prowess.

Fab Melo, Boston Celtics, C

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    Age: 22

    College Experience: Two years (Syracuse)

    Fab Melo being declared ineligible for the 2011-12 NCAA tournament prompted his decision to turn pro, but he needed another year to polish his game.

    He thrived at Syracuse alongside veteran teammates who knew how to get him the ball, and he emerged as a defensive weapon in the Big East.

    Melo's size was attractive to the Boston Celtics, and they selected him with the 22nd overall pick. Unfortunately, his offensive skills and savvy are miles from NBA-ready, and his below-average athleticism limits his defensive effectiveness.

    It's safe to say he's the worst player from the 2012 first round. Another year at Syracuse would have helped his offensive game tremendously.

     

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